Mandatory service learning at university: Do less-inclined students learn from it?

Stephen C.F. Chan, Grace Ngai, Kam Por Kwan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


At many universities, there is a growing realization that the university owes a social responsibility to the community. Society invests in its citizens through the university, and the university empowers its students to realize their potential, both as competent professionals and as responsible citizens. This requires the cultivation of attributes such as social awareness, ethical leadership, and social responsibility, which are generally recognized as being difficult to teach in a classroom setting. Service learning is a form of active learning that integrates meaningful service to the community with academic study and reflective learning. In service learning, the learning goals of the students are as important as the benefits of the service that is rendered to the community; in addition, the two are interlinked and mutually reinforcing. Research has shown that service learning contributes positively to the attainment of many of the aforementioned desired graduate attributes for university students. However, there is much controversy about whether service learning should be mandated. There is a need to examine whether and to what extent students’ learning and development from completing a mandatory service learning subject are influenced by their initial inclination. Data described in this article were collected from 756 students via an online post-experience survey. Results show that students’ total learning experience from service learning had a much stronger impact on their learning and development than their initial inclination or even interest in the subject.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-202
Number of pages14
JournalActive Learning in Higher Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • impact
  • mandatory requirement
  • service learning
  • student learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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